Imagination – as a leadership skill
From meeting to meeting, from flight to taxi, from train to tube, from emails to conference call. With our all engulfing business lives it is no wonder that we have lost the energy and appetite, let alone the time to imagine. The reality is unless we create something successfully in our minds first, it is nigh on impossible to achieve it in reality. That’s why the most high-performing athletes have imagined every element of their chosen discipline prior to competing at the very best. Every breath, every sense, every sight, every sound; so that the experience is familiar to them.
Maxwell Maltz, author of the book Psycho Cybernetics, discovered that between what the mind vividly imagines and what the body actually experiences, the brain has difficulty distinguishing the difference. If you can think back to a time you have had a dream that seemed so real that when you woke it feels strange that you weren’t actually there, then this is a clear example of when this premise is confirmed. We often struggle to confirm whether the content of the dream was imagination or a reality.
So, if if this is the case, imagination has such power to convince us of things, then we have the ability to exercise this “muscle” as a preparation for a high performing living experience.
So how can leaders use imagination in their world?
1. Imagine what their successful business will look like and feel like in the future, considering the finest details of both what will happen and the nuances that will drive it.
2. Imagine the qualities and attributes of leadership that will enable them to be the kind of leader they need to be, and hopefully want to be, and consider how these behaviours will be received and valued by others.
3. Imagine what their most effective day consists of and the decision points around priorities that will enable this to happen.
4. Imagine addressing a challenging situation or conversation in a constructive and positive manner, to ensure they approach the reality with a conducive focus and mind set.
So the skeptics may claim that this doesn’t guarantee you success. Not every athlete that imagines winning a race subsequently wins it. True. But you are even less likely to achieve the desired result if you don’t create it mentally first.
But there is another application that is even more critical and differentiates the great from the truly exceptional leaders. That is that they imagine new things, new connections and new applications never thought of before. We often get into the habit of deploying old solutions (ones we’ve used before) to new problems. When what is really required is fresh thinking, new insight and innovative implementation.
So what gets in the way of our imagination? Time. Clearly we just don’t appreciate the value of it. If we did, we would do it. It seems crazy to suggest that actually we would prefer to keep putting a plaster over symptoms rather than not only discover real issues, but also create transformational solutions. Well maybe we are just happy with our status quo. Or maybe we are willing to do what it takes to be new, be different, be bold. What legacy would you like to leave?
Solution: The most valuable action I have found for someone who wants to take that step into the power of imagination, is to do just one simple thing. Book out 1 hour per week, every single week, to think, to dream, to imagine; and have the discipline to keep to it. There is a danger though that this time with your inner-self gets moved due to pressures, or is used as catch up time. If you can’t seem to make it happen by yourself then book this time in as a meeting with a friend or colleague and have them follow-up with you. The rule is though, that if you need to change the meeting you can, after contacting your respective friend or colleague, to another time in that week; but you can never remove it. There is another rule that will help. In that 1 hour of the week, focus on things you choose to do, not that you have to do. Imagine how you will change your world, not how you will get stuff done. Imagine what your business could be and create plans to make it happen.
I wish you success as you take on the challenge and see what impact it has on you but also on how others perceive you, as you become a leader of real vision.
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